Marketing behaviorLast week at this time I sat down to write a post about targeting and it turned into quite a research project all by itself. It started innocently enough by me asking if what your ordered at Starbucks or the local pub said something about you that a marketer could use. (The comments are way better than my post)

The simple answer is, of course it does. And if you could look inside a prospect’s car (of course just knowing the make and model would reveal something) and see that clutter you would know even more, if you could visit your prospect’s house and have them tell you about their favorite outfit or shoes, you would know even more, if you could spend a few minutes reading what’s on your prospect’s refrigerator, you would know even more.

The point is that your prospects and customers do things, act in certain ways, that can help you identify them as ideal prospects and customers. The trick is to pay attention closely enough to see the behavior that I call their key strategic behavior. Discover it and it’s like getting them to raise their hand to be called on.

Now, in all likelyhood, if were able to do the kind of research mentioned above you might actually learn more than you want to know, but it’s also completely impractical to think that you could ever gain that kind access to your customer’s behavior.

But, the good news is that there are very public things that your prospect’s and customers might do that can be great indicators if you start to analyze them.

    For instance:

  • I discovered long ago that business owners who participated at an officer level in local and national organizations related to their industry are more likely to have an interested in long term solutions rather than quick fixes.
  • I discovered that business owners who actively participated in groups like Rotary are more likely to embrace the idea of referrals and networking.
  • I discovered that business owners who sought out professional, but perhaps a bit more entrepreneurial, service providers such as CPAs, attorneys and bankers, were more willing to explore innovative approaches.

I know these are pretty broad generalizations, but they are fairly accurate markers of behavior. They helped me identify a prospect I knew I could work successfully with in a matter of minutes. So, take a look at your current ideal customers with an eye on identifying your key strategic behavior, something you can know about them, that is also a pretty good indicator of what type of customer they might be. If you can get this step right it can change who your target and what you say in all of your communications.

Dig deep in this exercise and get a bit creative, think club membership, community participation, hobbies, reading likes, Starbucks drink, even pet ownership. I once had a customer that came to the conclusion that all of her ideal customers owned big dogs – it’s not really that far fetched of an idea! (puns are always intended here.)

So, what behavior have identified as telling from a marketing perspective?

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John Jantsch

John Jantsch is a marketing consultant, speaker and author of Duct Tape Marketing, Duct Tape Selling, The Commitment Engine and The Referral Engine and the founder of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.
  • John,

    I couldn’t agree more. I belong to several chambers and a professional organization and learn more about clinet wants and needs by networking within those groups than traditional research could ever tell me. Good post.

  • John, we have a book about that in our bookstore: Courting the Customer. All about how to ‘court’ your ideal customer. Search for Pallini, the author. Short and sweet…it covers the bases.

  • Good idea John. We sell high-end fishing products, so a lot of our customers tend to be pretty stereotypical outdoors guys but…. after reading this I noticed that the really good ones, the 20% or so that really make it worthwhile are all heavily involved in some sort of conservation effort like Coastal Conservation Association or the State Parks & Wildlife department. It’s this kind of criteria that separates the weekend Wal-Mart customer from the serious enthusiast that is willing to pay our kind of premium price, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see that was true for many other industries.

    Would you say that these people being “members” of some sort of group that requires time + effort on their part is sort of a “pre-qualifier”? For you it differentiates the business owners it who understand the time/money investment, and for me it weeds out the enthusiast from the part-timers.

    Thanks for the post

  • The points here are right on target. It takes more than having a list of prospects to convert into clients. You must develop relationships with prospects and the only way to do that is to get out and touch people. I find that too many small business leaders are set in there ways and fail to understand that the business landscape is evolving rapidly and that they must engage to keep pace.

    Waiting by the phone is an antiquated approach. Small business leaders must mingle in their industry to strike the big deals!


  • I love the psychology behind your article. It’s human nature to want to categorize and segregate things mentally. In a culture where individuality is taken too the extreme, why not use those individual preferences to help determine who your ideal customer is. Thank you for the refreshing post.

  • This is not so much marketing (looking for fish) as it is landing the fish (or deciding to cut the line and let it swim away).

    Watch your prospect’s reaction the VERY FIRST TIME you mention money. That response at that moment will tell you how he/she will treat you for the rest of your life.

    Anyone who quibbles about price or payment terms will be a pain in your side forever. Remember, you read it here first. 🙂

    You’re WAY better off quoting a fixed price. High. If they have a problem with price you take services off the table to get to their price.

    You’re WAY better off saying “everything up front”. Then you watch what they say. Just ask yourself how much you’re prepared to walk away from if you want to adjust the payment terms. If you do installments, the final payment on completion should be smaller (like 10%). Balance your administrative headache and risk of loss against landing the business. This is a credit decision (am I willing to lend money to this person?) so treat it that way.

    I find that if my customers owe me more than about $2,500, they OWN me. I am doing more work to chase old work. I hate that.

    @philiphodgen (Twitter)

  • John Jantsch

    Phil, On one hand I agree, and I’ve made that same point, but I want to open up the fact that sometimes flinching on money can also mean you’ve done a lousy job of educating on the value you have to offer. If they can’t tell how you are different then they may compare you to the price they got from the last guy.

  • John makes an excellent point in this article about marketing strategies based on targeting the behavior of existing quality clients for improved sales results.

    Generalized marketing requires expensive sales time to siphon prospects, also hurting sales performance. Precision marketing results in a better selection of prospects, increasing sales.

    If you’re fishing for trout and use worms, you’re going to get nibbles from a wide variety of fish other than trout. But, if there’s a stonefly hatch and you use stoneflies, trout visiting your presentation will go up exponentially. If existing clients have a propensity towards big dogs, then marketing collateral with big dog centric themes will make better bait.

    If you do not want clients who flinch at money, then value centric marketing collateral will dissuade price shoppers and attract buyers of quality.

  • Excellent article. Being involved in the community through chambers, Rotary and professional groups shows a genuine interest in what is happening in your environment… those are the people I enjoy doing business with the most.